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NW Fishletter #367 March 6, 2017

[3] Snake River Fall Chinook Redd Count Robust for Third Year in a Row

Fall Chinook redd counts in the Snake River basin are strong for the third year in a row. A redd count summary by the Nez Perce Tribe put the 2016 number at 6,426.

Only redds counted in 2014 and 2015 exceeded that number. In 2015, 9,346 fall Chinook spawning nests were recorded, making it the highest number since the tribe started counting in the late 1980s.

Salmon fry will emerge this spring from the 2016 redds and make their way to saltwater after a month or two, then return to the Snake River after spending one to four years in the ocean.

Many actions likely account for the uptick in Snake River redds. Principal among them is the tribe's successful fall Chinook hatchery supplementation program, which is returning more fish to the spawning grounds. In addition, more streams are being counted.

Improved flows, cool water releases, passage improvements at mainstem dams and reductions in harvest rates since the 1990s also contributed to the increase in redds.

These actions are documented in NOAA Fisheries' 2015 Draft Fall Chinook Recovery Plan.

Since 1991 the Tribe has collaborated with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Idaho Power and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct redd surveys on the Snake River and most major tributaries above and below Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston.

Of the redds observed in 2016, the Nez Perce counted about half of them in the Clearwater River. The tribe's helicopter surveys also estimated 17 in the North Fork Clearwater, 108 in the South Fork Clearwater, 76 in the Middle Fork Clearwater, 102 in the Selway River and 28 in the Potlatch River.

Idaho Power and FWS redd surveys in the Snake River main stem, done by drones and underwater video, totaled another 1,972 redds.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists counted 244 redds in the Tucannon River. The Tucannon survey is conducted on foot because of dense riparian vegetation.

Tribal aerial surveys estimated 35 redds in the Salmon River, 29 redds in the Imnaha River, and 415 redds in the Grande Ronde River basin.

Snake River fall Chinook were classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. -Laura Berg

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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